Let’s talk about Youtube hermeneutics. Don’t know what that is? It’s possible that it’s the second word that’s throwing you off. Generally defined, heremeneutics refers to a method or theory of interpretation and it is usually associated with the Bible. So when I say “Youtube hermeneutics” you understand what kind of method or theory of Biblical interpretation I’m referring to. It’s also affectionately known, in my house at least, as “Jeremiah 29:11ism.” And now the light bulb goes off over top of your head. “Oh! That’s what he’s talking about.” Yes. That’s what I’m talking about.
Let’s be honest with ourselves. We love Youtube hermeneutics. It’s so easy and the splices are so clean and I learn everything I want to know in 5 minutes or less. What does it matter what Jeremiah 29:10 says? What does it matter who Jeremiah was writing to and why? Verse 11 makes me feel good! And so does Youtube with all of its kittens, autotuning, and people falling down! So who really cares? Well, God does. And if God does, so should we.
We are so quick to quote Jeremiah 29:11 when someone is graduating or when someone is looking for a job or when. . .we don’t know what else to say. “Well, God has a plan for your life and it’ll be a good-un. See! I have chapter and verse.” But have you ever thought about why Jeremiah had to convince his hearers that God’s plan was good, pleasing, perfect, and not intended for harm? Because in verse 10 he tells them that God is sending them into exile for 70 years! Read it in context.
“For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
While I won’t argue the point that God has a plan for us and it’s good (even if our definition of “good” may not align with His. . .ask Stephen), I don’t think this is the verse to communicate it. We use it to paint for ourselves a very mystical, mysterious, ethereal understanding of God’s will. Why aren’t we as quick to quote Psalm 37:3 when talking about God’s will for our life. “Trust the LORD, and do good.” What about 1 Thessalonians 4:3? “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…”
God’s will is not a mystery. He wills that we trust Him. He wills that we do good. He wills that we become sanctified and conformed into the image of His Son. But we become bogged down and concerned with questions all about ourselves. We ask who we will marry, where we will go to college, what job we’ll have next, where we’ll live, how many kids we’ll have, what kind of house we’ll have, and what church we will go to. All the while, we cling ever so tightly to our precious Jeremiah 29:11 waiting for God to act and reveal to us His plans for “welfare and not for evil, to give [us] a future and a hope.” But what our Youtube hermeneutics have failed to show us is that God’s plan for us isn’t a mystery. The fleshing out of it may look different between the two of us, but His will for humanity is the same. There are literally thousands of options you could choose in how you go about living your everyday life. But the beauty of God’s will is that you can accomplish it and please Him by choosing any of them! The reality is, it’s not about who you marry, but marrying wisely. It’s not about what school you attend, but being able to project cause and effect. It’s not about how many kids you have, but about being a faithful parent.
Our Youtube hermeneutics has led us on a continual search for God’s perfect will for us. But no matter what our circumstance or stage of life, God’s will for us is to live a holy life defined by the Scriptures renewed by the Spirit who gives us the power to apply them.
“Woah woah woah,” you say. “What about my ‘calling’? What about my ‘purpose’?”
In Christianese, when we find something we want to do or think we’re supposed to do, we talk about calling. “Well, I feel called to this.” Majority of the time, however, we use this to get out of doing things. “That’s not what God has called me to.” Ironically, God never “calls” us to do anything we don’t want to do, because His plan for me is not going to harm me, but give me a hope and a future. So I can’t do anything hard or that I don’t want to do. This language is misleading, unhelpful, and potentially harmful.
Again, I won’t argue that God hasn’t called you to something. He most certainly has! But his calling to you is the same as His calling to me. It’s the call of a disciple. Being a disciple means that you evaluate your passions and talents in terms of how they can best be used to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. Christians don’t need to be “re – called” to be missionaries to their city and to their friends and neighbors. The call has already been issued. If you are a Christian, you are a disciple of Christ and He has sent you out to be agents of regeneration bringing about His Kingdom. Look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Jesus sums up the entire Law and Prophets by telling us to love God and love our neighbors (Matt. 22:27-29). Jesus ends his ministry on earth by sending his disciples out to make more disciples by teaching others to obey everything Jesus taught (Matt. 29:19-20). You and I must evaluate how God has best equipped us to fulfill the call on our lives that already exists. But the call is clear.
“Woah woah woah. Are you saying God doesn’t give specific callings or directions?”
Not at all! God tells Paul in Acts 16:8 to go specifically to Macedonia, but this was given in the context of Paul’s active participation in God’s initial call to be a sent disciple. The Holy Spirit tells the Church at Antioch to set apart Barnabas and Saul for a church planting mission in Acts 13, but both Barnabas and Saul were already active in completing the call to teach and serve. So many Christians are sitting around waiting on warm fuzzies or a goose-bump inducing vision from God before they ever start doing anything for the Kingdom. Is it possible that we have invented Youtube hermeneutics and the language of “calling” to mask the fact that most Christians don’t want to live like missionaries in their cities and neighborhoods?
Think of walking through your city or town one day. As you walk, you come upon a small, handicapped child laying on some railroad tracks. The child cannot move and you hear the sound of the train coming in the distance. Do you stop, get on your knees, and ask if it’s God’s will for you to pick up the child? What happens if you don’t get a clear sense from God? Would you move on having done nothing? The thing is, I don’t need a special word from God here. God’s will is clear in Scripture. Save and preserve life.
I often think about this in regards to the question of whether or not we need to be missionaries in our city or overseas. Jesus made it clear that we are a sent people and that his Gospel is for every people and every nation. Why are so many Christians waiting on a warm sensation and God to spell out “India” in their Cheerios before they even considering acting? So many people say, “As soon as God calls me, I’ll go.” Perhaps we should say, “If God tells me to stay, I’ll stay. He’s already told me to go.” Every disciple must consider what his role is in obedience to Jesus’ command.
God created the world (Gen. 1:1-3) and continues to sustain it by his Spirit (Ps. 104:30), watering it with rain (Ps. 65:9-13) and meeting the needs of every creature (Ps. 145:15–16; 147:15–20). The Holy Spirit is not only a “preacher” that convicts people of sin and draws them to repentance, but also a “gardener,” an “artist,” and so much more. Wouldn’t it stand to reason, then, that we can accomplish His will in a variety of ways as well?
So let me leave you with a few questions that may cause you to rethink your “Jeremiah 29:11ism” and your Youtube hermeneutics. What do you love to do and find joy in (Ps. 37:4)? Are there any Scriptures prohibiting this? Can I proclaim the Gospel of Christ in doing this? Will God receive glory if I do it well? Once you have answered these questions and aligned yourself with Scripture, you’ll discover a newfound freedom in the Spirit that liberates you from the fear of missing the “perfect” will of God.
This is Christianity.